Bringing Policy Support from Trusted Messengers to Congress

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This training explains how to identify and engage community leaders who are especially influential on their members of Congress. These leaders are called trusted messengers. This training also explains how to work with a trusted messenger to customize CCL’s editable template policy support letter and the best way to deliver the completed and signed letter to Congress. 

TOC and Guide Section
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Grassroots vs. Grasstops

When we do grassroots outreach, we’re engaging everyday constituents, people in the district who have a normal amount of influence on their members of Congress. When we do grasstops outreach, we’re engaging people and organizations in the community that represent the views of many constituents and are especially influential on their members of Congress.

Business owners, local elected officials, large local employers, faith leaders and instructors are some examples of community leaders who have an outsize influence. 

Over the past decade CCL volunteers have secured thousands of endorsements from community leaders for carbon fee and dividend and the Energy Innovation Act. These endorsements have helped to show important  policy support in districts and states. And these endorsements have a cascading effect because they help to push MOCs up the carbon pricing policy support ladder which in turn demonstrates support to other members of Congress and helps build political will in Congress in general. 

What is a "trusted messenger"

Now let’s look at a special kind of community leader that we call trusted messengers. To start to understand this concept you might think about who among the people you know have views and opinions that have the greatest impact on your own views and opinions. These people are your trusted messengers. 

Especially respected by a Member of Congress, a trusted messenger is a community leader who is a key figure in the MOC’s jurisdiction who has views and opinions that are trusted by the MOC. Trusted messengers often have a personal connection to the MOC in some way, for example they might belong to the same political party, live in the same city, have similar career backgrounds or something else. Some trusted messengers may be friends with their MOC and have history together. Perhaps they went to college together, serve on the same boards, volunteer with the same service organization or belong to the same place of worship. 

For our purposes, we engage trusted messengers so that they can convey to their MOCs (1) the current climate impacts on their organization and the district, (2) the risk to the jurisdiction from future climate impacts and (3) policies the trusted messenger advocates to reduce the use of fossil fuels. 

When making a list of trusted messengers, it’s a good idea to prioritize your local elected officials because they often know their MOCs personally, they move in the same circles, they may have worked together and because your local elected officials are relatively easy for you to meet with.

One side effect of narrowing your grasstops engagement to just the most influential community leaders is that you’re spending your limited time on the highest value prospects.   

Why get a policy support letter from a trusted messenger?

The CCL Government Affairs team recommends that all chapters work to secure at least one letter from a trusted messenger to their member of Congress (MOC) and deliver the letter in an upcoming lobby meeting. Bringing a policy support letter from a trusted messenger to a lobby meeting is a great way to get the attention of the congressional office, may help to move the MOC up the policy support ladder and could help to steer your lobby meeting.

How to identify local trusted messengers

Following are research steps that you can use to identify local trusted messengers.

  • Liaisons know their MOCs well and have often worked with them for years. Ask your local liaisons who their MOC listens to in the district. It might be a business owner, CEO, faith leader, trade organization or large local employer. These are trusted messengers. 
  • Next, learn as much as possible about your MOC. The more you know, the better your chances of discovering a trusted messenger you can easily engage. There’s a whole section below on how to do this research.  
  • Ask your fellow volunteers who they know who has a personal connection to their member of congress. It might be: 
    • Someone who went to the same college or belongs to the same faith organization
    • Someone who worked with the member in a career before congress
    • Someone who sits on the same board of directors or belongs to the same service organization
    • Someone who lives in the same town or is neighbors with their MOC
  • Members of congress are always interested in creating jobs and economic activity in their district. The district is their jurisdiction and the MOC will be judged  on the health of the district’s economy in the next election.  So look on Wikipedia to find the largest local employers and primary industries in the district. Members of congress will very likely listen to representatives from these large local employers and industries.
Learn about your member of Congress to help identify their trusted messengers

Your time is limited and precious so start your MOC research at the places listed below where you can find reliable info. 

There is a biography of every member of Congress at This will give you a lot of basic information and provide a good starting point. 

Next, check out the MOC’s campaign website. These websites are only updated during campaign season, but they contain a wealth of information. Look for people who endorsed the candidate in the campaign and people who appear in campaign photos alongside the candidate. These may be trusted messengers. The campaign website may also describe top industries, economic drivers and job creators in the district. The people who manage these organizations and work in these industries could be trusted messengers. 

Review the MOC’s congressional website at or Press releases, caucus memberships, legislation activity and events may lead you to trusted messengers in the district. 

You can also learn more about your MOC on their facebook, linkedin, X and instagram pages, and on which provides information on MOCs including:

  • Their committees 
  • Their enacted legislation
  • The bills they’ve sponsored
  • Their voting record

In the future, when you visit a congressional office in person, you might also take a close look at the photos and mementos to learn what the MOC cares about.

Use our editable policy support template letter

CCL’s editable policy support template letter is available at When you are ready, work with your trusted messenger to customize the template letter and get it ready to deliver it to Congress. 

  • Fill in the blanks in the template letter
  • Be sure to describe the impact of climate change on the district, on the trusted messenger’s organization and on the community
  • Next, work with the trusted messenger to select one of the policies in CCL’s policy agenda for the letter.
  • Finally, edit the customized letter so that the trusted messenger is comfortable signing it

If the trusted messenger would prefer to write a personal support letter, work with them to ensure the letter describes:

  • how climate change has impacted and will further impact their city and organization
  • their desire for the U.S. Congress to prioritize more policy to address climate change
  • And which of the policies in CCL’s policy agenda they support 

Once the letter is done, ask the trusted messenger to print it, if possible, on their letterhead.
You are welcome to help draft the letter, but the letter should be signed only by trusted messenger(s). 

Helpful tools

It’s a good idea to use a shared spreadsheet while you are identifying and engaging trusted messengers. For example, you might use a google spreadsheet for the tasks you are working on, learning about your MOC and their background, who they listen to in the district, and notes from your meetings with trusted messengers. 


With a shared spreadsheet, (1) you can have multiple volunteers all working on the same project at the same time, (2) everyone can see all the latest information, (3) there is no confusion caused by sending dated spreadsheets as email attachments, (4) everyone can log the results of their detective work in a place where everyone can see it, and (5) it prevents duplication of effort. 

Research local climate impacts

After you’ve talked to your local trusted messenger about how climate change is impacting them, do some independent research for more local impacts.

  • Search your local newspaper’s website to find how climate change is impacting your area.
  • Look at CCL Community’s Local Impacts Resources
  • Talk to the trusted messenger about adding what you found into the letter template. 
Delivering the trusted messenger's letter to Congress

Once the trusted messenger has printed the letter on letterhead and signed it, work with the CCL liaison to plan to deliver the letter to Congress. The best time to deliver the letter is during a lobby meeting so that you or someone on your team can hand over the letter personally, highlight the described climate impacts and discuss the importance of the trusted messenger’s policy support. 


For example, you might say, “here’s a letter from your friend Jan Thomas who is a city council member in your district. The letter describes how climate impacts have lowered crop yields and raised prices in the district. The letter also describes policies to address climate change that Jan Thomas would like you to enact”. Be sure to emphasize climate impacts and the credentials of the trusted messenger during your delivery. 

Press play to start the video (26m 58s)
Video Outline
Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:30) Why Grasstops to Influence your member of Congress?
  • (4:00) What is a trusted messenger?
  • (13:28) How to identify trusted messengers
  • (19:17) Our editable template letter
  • Todd Elvins
  • Ben Pendergrass

View the Google Slides presentation.

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Press play to start the audio (26m 58s)
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Audio Outline
Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (2:30) Why Grasstops to Influence your member of Congress?
  • (4:00) What is a trusted messenger?
  • (13:28) How to identify trusted messengers
  • (19:17) Our editable template letter
  • Todd Elvins
  • Ben Pendergrass
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Looking for sample outreach emails to your Grasstops Leaders? Check out this recommendation from the forums.
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The resources above are specific to this training, see all resources associated with Grasstops Engagement.